Tuesday, 28 March 2017

From Human to Machine: Levels of Car Automation

Almost every automaker has entered the race to develop self-driving car technology, but they're not the only ones. Tech giants including Apple and Google are in the mix, as are big auto-parts suppliers, such as Bosch and Delphi. And then there's Uber—which may one day replace its human drivers with computers and software.

The levels of automation have been established by automotive engineers and auto safety regulators. Here’s what they mean.

To help understand the evolution of technology between traditional cars and fully autonomous vehicles, SAE International (born the Society of Automotive Engineers) has come up with a scale to describe the different levels of automation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—the U.S. auto-safety regulator—has now adopted the same scale, creating a common vocabulary to explain this emerging technology. These levels of automation have become the shorthand that all of the companies in the field use to describe their progress.

Below is a cheat sheet on how we'll get from the advanced cars of today to the self-driving cars that may rule the roads in the future.

Level 1: Driver Assistance

This describes many of today’s new cars. The human driver is responsible for the safety and operation at all times, but the car can take over at least one vital function: steering or speed control. Adaptive cruise control is the best example of existing technology at this level.

Level 2: Partial Automation

Today’s more advanced cars qualify as Level 2. The driver is still responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle, but it can take over steering, braking, and acceleration under certain conditions. The driver is expected to do everything else and monitor road conditions. Tesla’s Autopilot and similar systems from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volvo are good examples of partial automation.

Level 3: Conditional Automation

The car can drive itself, but the human driver must still pay attention and take over at any time. The car is supposed to notify its driver if intervention is needed. This may be the most difficult level to manage because experiments have shown people tend to put too much trust in the technology and stop paying attention.

Level 4: High Automation

Here, the human driver has handed over control to the computer driver under certain situations, such as highway driving or set routes or areas. The human driver does not need to pay attention until the car asks him to. The car is expected to have backup systems so that if one technology fails, it will still be operational. If the car determines it’s not safe to continue, it will pull over and shut down. Automakers predict this type of car will become available, probably as part of ride-sharing or taxi fleets, in the next few years.

Level 5: Full Automation

The car controls itself under all circumstances, in all the places a human could drive, with no expectation of human intervention. These cars won’t need steering wheels, brake pedals, or accelerators. This level would open up vast opportunities for people who can’t drive today, such as the blind, the disabled, and kids.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Da Vinci Code 2.0: How 3D Printing And Digital Technologies Are Altering The Face Of Aircraft Engine Manufacturing In Italy

Additive technologies like 3D printing are revolutionizing manufacturing in much the same way the internet transformed information and shopping. Instead of removing material, these techniques grow parts from the ground up by either depositing or fusing layers of material. Engineers can design parts on their computers and then send their drawings directly to a 3D printer. The machines break down the design files to individual layers and join them together in the right pattern. “There are no limits to complexity,” says Dario Mantegazza, an Avio Aero manufacturing engineer in Cameri, Italy. “You can create hollow structures if you want, or something like a bone.” GE Aviation acquired in 2013 Avio Aero, an advanced additive manufacturing factory

Cameri is a key piece of GE’s additive manufacturing business strategy. The typical palette of materials used for 3D printing can range in complexity from simple plastics to advanced superalloys. For example, the, Auburn factory’s direct metal laser melting (DMLM) machines create jet engine fuel nozzles by fusing layers of fine metal powder with a powerful laser. Each layer is between 20 and 80 microns thick — thinner than a human hair — and 1 inch of printed material can contain up to 1,250 layers. Planes powered by jet engines that use these fuel nozzles already are ferrying passengers across Europe and Asia.

The Cameri plant, however, uses 20 machines developed by Arcam. They use an electron beam to fuse together layers of a wonder material called titanium aluminide (TiAl), which is 50 percent lighter than nickel-based alloys. Mantegazza and his colleagues are using it to print blades for the low-pressure turbine of the GE9X jet engine, the largest jet engine ever built.

The Arcam machines use an electron gun to accelerate the beam until it’s several times more powerful than lasers currently used for printing metal parts. As a result, Mantegazza and his colleagues can build blades from layers that are more than four times thicker than those used by laser-powered 3D printers. They say the method is so fast that it’s competitive with casting, the standard way to make parts from TiAl.

A pair of Arcam machines at Avio Aero’s additive manufacturing factory in Cameri. “This factory has helped us understand what the art of the possible is with additive manufacturing,” David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation, said during a recent visit. “This is the cutting edge.”

The team also can change the shape of the parts and print different blades at the same time on the same machine. “You have the ultimate manufacturing freedom,” Mantegazza says.

But printing is just the first step in the additive manufacturing process. Once the the turbine blades are printed in Cameri, they travel south to Pomigliano d’Arco, an industrial suburb of Naples located at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. Pomigliano has long been home to one of Avio Aero’s largest factories. Today, it’s also one of GE Aviation’s “centers of excellence,” where engineers are testing the best and fastest ways to finish 3D-printed parts and prepare them for production.

The parts include the blades from Cameri as well as components for an advanced turboprop engine (ATP), which is using more additive parts that any other engine in GE Aviation’s history. Additive manufacturing has enabled designers to consolidate some 800 parts into just a dozen components. In total, some 35 percent of the engine will be “printed,” says Carlo Silvestro, an engineering manager in at the Pomigliano plant.

The reduction in complexity will help decrease the engine’s fuel burn by up to 20 percent and lower its weight while achieving 10 percent more power and helping speed up production.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The book that moved the world's richest man to tears!

'When Breath Becomes Air' is a memoir by neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi who died of lung cancer in 2015 at just 37-years-old.

Published posthumously, Kalanithi uses the book to reflect on his job and think about what makes life worth living.

On his blog, Gates wrote: “I can say this is the best nonfiction story I've read in a long time.

“I’m usually not one for tear-jerkers about death and dying…but this book definitely earned my admiration—and tears.”

The billionaire added: “This short book has so many layers of meaning and so many interesting juxtapositions [including] life and death, patient and doctor, son and father, work and family, faith and reason.

Kalanithi is part of a fraternity of amazing writer doctors, including Abraham Verghese (who wrote the foreword to Paul’s book), Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Atul Gawande. Perhaps I should consult a neuroscientist to figure out whether these seemingly disparate talents are somehow linked in the brain.

I am certain I will read When Breath Becomes Air again. This short book has so many layers of meaning and so many interesting juxtapositions—life and death, patient and doctor, son and father, work and family, faith and reason—I know I’ll pick up more insights the second time around.

I don’t know how Kalanithi found the physical strength to write this book while he was so debilitated by the disease and then potent chemotherapy. But I’m so glad he did. He spent his whole brief life searching for meaning in one way or another—through books, writing, medicine, surgery, and science. I’m grateful that, by reading this book, I got to witness a small part of that journey.

I just wish the journey hadn’t been cut so short.

All the writers mentioned by Bill Gates have an Indian connection

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Week That Was:

When Engineers Tied The Tiniest Knot:

Scientists at the University of Manchester have tied the tightest knot ever. They say that the achievement could lead to a new generation of supermaterials. “Some polymers, such as spider silk, can be twice as strong as steel so braiding polymer strands may lead to new generations of light, super-strong and flexible materials for fabrication and construction,” according David Leigh, a professor at Manchester’s School of Chemistry. The knot has eight crossings on a loop made from 192 atoms and just 20 nanometers long.

“Tying knots is a similar process to weaving, so the techniques being developed to tie knots in molecules should also be applicable to the weaving of molecular strands,” Leigh said. “For example, bulletproof vests and body armor are made of Kevlar, a plastic that consists of rigid molecular rods aligned in a parallel structure — however, interweaving polymer strands have the potential to create much tougher, lighter and more flexible materials in the same way that weaving threads does in our everyday world.”

Meanwhile, Bioengineers at Duke University have tweaked the DNA of a salmonella bacteria strain that typically causes food poisoning and then used the modified bugs to attack glioblastoma, the deadliest form of brain cancer. The team engineered the bacteria to penetrate the protective blood-brain barrier and turned the bacteria “into a cancer-seeking missile that produces self-destruct orders deep within tumors.”

That’s because the genetic changes compelled the microbes to produce a pair of compounds called Azurin and p53 that tell cells to commit suicide. Duke reported that tests in rats with “extreme cases of the disease” extended the lives of 20 percent of the population by 100 days — roughly equivalent to 10 human years — and sent their tumors into complete remission. “A major challenge in treating gliomas is that the tumor is dispersed with no clear edge, making them difficult to completely surgically remove,” said Ravi Bellamkonda, dean of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering and corresponding author of the paper.

“So designing bacteria to actively move and seek out these distributed tumors, and express their anti-tumor proteins only in hypoxic, purine-rich tumor regions is exciting.”